Since 1998, the Sarawak Culture Village has been home to the annual Rainforest Music Festival (wrwmf.net), now usually held during the second weekend of July. It would be hard to find a more appropriate and evocative setting for a major world music event, with the Village’s beautiful tribal homes not far from the stages and Gunung Santubong the perfect backdrop.
While the event attracts performers from across the globe, it’s especially worthwhile for the opportunity to watch indigenous Bornean musicians – some of whom can seem decidedly exotic even to city-dwelling Sarawakian youth, never mind audiences from further afield. With some noted performers having died since the festival was first staged, the sense that many traditions are living on borrowed time makes the chance to glimpse sape players (pronounced sup-ay, the sape is the Orang Ulu lute, shaped like a longboat), gong ensembles, and the like that much more valuable (especially if you catch them in the intimate confines of a workshop). Favourites have included Tuku Kame, led by the flautist (and head of the Village’s Heritage Resource Centre), Narawi Rashidi, and featuring charismatic electric sape player Jerry Kamit. Beds are hard to come by in Damai and Kuching over the period, so book accommodation early.